The departed wine manager of UK supermarket retailer The Co-operative Group says he is ‘flattered’ by a Facebook campaign designed to keep him in his job.

Paul Bastard took voluntary redundancy and left his post as wine development manager on 17 August, after 19 years within the Co-op food business.

News of his exit has caused a social media stir, with an anonymous Facebook profile set up under the name ‘Votefor PB’ and a cover photo declaring: ‘Keep Paul at Co-op’.

The profile had 112 ‘friends’ by midday on the day of Bastard’s departure.

The campaign comes amid talk of a division between the Co-op wine team and senior management following the departures of wine strategy manager Vicky Wood and wine buyer Maria Elener earlier this year.

Bastard told there had been a ‘restructure’, but insisted there are ‘no hard feelings’, adding: ‘I’ve not been dismissed.’

Although not on Facebook, he said he’s ‘very flattered’ by the social media campaign.

‘When there’s a change in a business you think: is this change for me? And after hard reflection, I’ve said no. Of course I’m sorry to leave, but I wouldn’t have a word said against them,’ he said.

Bastard and his colleagues were instrumental in pioneering Fairtrade wine at the Co-op. Asked if he planned to stay in wine, Bastard said he was undecided.

The Co-op said it is ‘actively searching internally and externally for a replacement for Paul’.

A company spokesperson declined to comment on the restructure, but said the retailer is ‘as committed as ever to growing and developing our award-winning wine range’.

Mike Osmond, commercial director at the group’s food business, thanked Bastard for ‘a much-valued contribution’.

Written by Chris Mercer